As in Paris, a micro-forest sprouts in Griffith Park

| July 1, 2021 | 0 Comments

Photo by John Hughes

There is a Chinese proverb that posits, “When is the best time to plant a tree?” And it answers, “20 years ago. Or today.”

Volunteers with the Los Angeles Parks Foundation and the conservation committee of the Los Angeles Zoo took the proverb to heart on June 19, planting 145 indigenous trees and shrubs to establish a micro-forest in Griffith Park, the plan for which was first reported in the June issue of the Larchmont Chronicle. The 1,000-square-foot circular future forest, planted in the dense Miyawaki Method that encourages rapid growth, is located in the Bette Davis Picnic Area of the park. After two years of care, the forest should be self-sustaining.

A number of factors planted the seed for the micro-forest project, and it took three dynamic women to sprout the idea. They are: Carolyn Ramsay, executive director of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation (and a Windsor Square resident), Michaela Burschinger, then-vice president, now president, of the Hancock Park Garden Club (HPGC) (and a Brookside resident), and Katherine Pakradouni, the project and program manager of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation.

As in Paris

DYNAMIC WOMEN leading the forest project are, L-R: Carolyn Ramsay, Michaela Burschinger and Katherine Pakradouni.

Carolyn Ramsay started the process. She had read an article about officials in the City of Paris planting trees along sidewalks and anywhere else they could fit a copse — in order to fight climate change. She thought, “We can do that here!”

Then an architect friend told Ramsay about the Miyawaki Method of forest planting, and she was hooked on the idea.

Coincidentally, the HPGC was expanding the mission of the club beyond the neighborhood.

Understanding the importance of greenery, HPGC members committed to supporting tree planting elsewhere in Los Angeles, especially in underserved communities. They planted 14 trees in the Watts nity Garden and other neighborhoods that lacked green spaces. They also published the booklet “Your Next Front Yard,” available for free at Chevalier’s, about drought-tolerant planting.

Member Burschinger reached out for help with the new club initiatives to fellow member Ramsay, who told Burschinger about the micro-forest approach to building a better forest and her desire to plant one in Griffith Park. Immediately, Burschinger was intrigued.

During this time, Pakradouni began working for the Los Angeles Parks Foundation, and she was tasked with collecting and growing seeds plucked from Griffith Park for use throughout the park system.

A native plant horticulturist, Pakradouni previously had worked for the Theodore Payne Foundation, a California native plant nonprofit nursery.

PLANTING A COAST LIVE OAK for the forest canopy project at the Bette Davis Picnic Area. Photo by John Hughes

Taking on the tiny forest was a natural for her. “It was totally up my alley,” Pakradouni states. “I already knew what kinds of plants would work.”

“Katherine sent a super detailed funding proposal” to the HPGC, Burschinger enthuses. “The club thought it was such an exciting new thing, with such potential.” The HPGC embraced the micro-forest idea and pledged to fund the project. “$15,000 will take care of maintenance, watering, preparing the site, and paying Katherine to oversee it,” explains Burschinger.

Pakradouni decided on appropriate indigenous plant species and chose the small circle format.

LITTLE HANDS can plant big forests.

“It’s an easy design to start with. I’d seen similar designs, and they were nice and inviting. I didn’t want it to be overwhelming,” the horticulturalist explains. “I want to demonstrate how much of an impact can be made in such a small space.” There is a curving 40-foot path through the middle of the forest, which Pakradouni says will “encourage people to walk through it. A participatory quality will be a part of it.”

Griffith Park itself was the source of nearly all the seeds Pakradouni collected and grew for the forest project. Seeds were started in October 2020 in preparation for the late spring planting on June 19. The 13 species she selected include Mexican elderberry, lemonade berry, California wild rose, mugwort, and coastal live oak, which were started earlier and donated. Several of the elderberries were donated by the California Botanic Garden, a native plant nonprofit in Claremont, California.

Haphazard, two feet apart

TWO-DAY-OLD FOREST. Photo by John Hughes

The morning of the great planting, Pakradouni placed the seedlings two feet apart, mindful of the Miyawaki Method of not putting the same species or height tree next to another and avoiding the regimentation of neat rows. This seemingly haphazard arrangement will encourage healthy competition among the plants, speed up the growing process, and increase biodiversity.

Then the volunteers started digging, mulching and turning a dry patch of dirt into a home for little seedlings. Two hours later, the circle was planted and, if one squints, one can believe a real forest will soon appear.

Updates on the forest’s progress will also be posted at

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: People

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *